By: Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
Do you find yourself with Pittsburgh wanderlust and no way to satisfy it?
A Change.org petition that recently circulated throughout Facebook may have the answer.
The petition is asking for 1,000 signatures in the hopes of gaining university-issued bus passes. Duquesne University is the only college in Downtown Pittsburgh that does not give students bus passes, either discounted or covered by tuition.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that this is because the school does not have a contract with Port Authority like other universities do. Instead students have the option of purchasing a South Side Shuttle pass, which takes care of hopping back and forth between everything that’s on the South Side, or taking the free Loop Bus to Oakland and the Waterfront on Friday and Saturday nights.
But here’s why Duquesne should consider school-wide bus passes.
According to the Office of Commuter Affairs, commuters make up the largest population of students. These students commute from all reaches of Pittsburgh: Monroeville, the South Hills, Robinson and the city’s own 90 neighborhoods.
A bus pass would give these students an inexpensive, safe way to get to school. Not everyone can afford to purchase a Forbes Garage parking pass, not everyone owns a car to begin with and not everyone can afford gas on a college budget. In addition, bus passes have a positive impact on the environment – something Duquesne earnestly values – because less people are driving.
Winter weather is also unpredictable; it’s impractical to apply for overnight commuter parking one business day in advance when snowstorms can strike sporadically. With included bus passes, students could simply take mass transit in and out of town when inclement weather is a possibility.
Bus passes are advantageous for those who live on campus, as well. Students living in Brottier need to grocery shop, along with anyone who doesn’t want to be limited to campus food or take out. Downtown Pittsburgh is vacant of any decent markets besides a few CVS drugstores, a Shop n’ Save and the Giant Eagle accessible through the South Side Shuttle. However, all of those places are between a one and two mile walk.
But what if you want to travel farther? Wouldn’t it be nice to take the bus instead of shelling out obscene amounts of cash for an Uber ride? Bus passes also give you the option to visit healthier supermarkets or restaurants in more distant neighborhoods.
With the ability to use mass transit freely, students can experience every last detail of Pittsburgh rather than just what’s in feasible walking distance. It’s a wonderful option for those who have to complete service learning hours outside of campus, those who need to get to the airport for Spring Break trips, those who need a responsible ride home after spending time on the South Side and those who need a way to complete class assignments requiring museum trips.
An obvious downside that the university and some students may object to is the cost. According to the Port Authority’s website, an ultimate annual pass that allows users unlimited travel by bus, light rail and incline is between $1,072.50 and $1,608.75.
While that is a lot of money, other universities around the area don’t pay nearly that much for bus passes. For example, students at the University of Pittsburgh pay a transportation fee of only $180, according to its website. At Carnegie Mellon University, it’s only $150. Duquesne could also choose to go with a lower-caliber bus pass or even just discounted tickets.
In addition, tuition prices are constantly increasing. Reports by The College Board show that tuition has been increasing steadily since the mid-1970s, sometimes by as much as 30 percent when looking at five-year change. For example, Duquesne tuition was $26,400 for liberal arts in 2010, compared to $33,778 today.
Most of the time, it seems like that extra money evaporates because there’s no tangible or noticeable result of it on campus. Adding an extra charge to university tuition wouldn’t be so bad because it’s something that students, commuter or otherwise, would find value in every single day.
Include bus passes with tuition, Duquesne. They will only help your students to flourish even greater.